Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project just published a second round of profiles of teachers with lesson plans around writing, complimented by student work. It is called Writing to Go, and I was lucky to have been asked to contribute to the publication. My topic: teaching the synthesis of reading across multiple texts and using evidence from those texts in analytical writing. (This is also my main teaching goal this year).
The book has a wealth of great ideas, from using images to inspire writing, to how to build a sense of community through reading and writing, to using primary sources to inform writing, to how to best analyze the potential of quotations and dialogue. Writing to Go was rolled out at the WMWP 20th anniversary last week and will go on sale through the WMWP office and website in the coming days. It also provides a nice look inside the work being done by various WMWP teachers.
I’m a little late to this party for sharing this video (it got lost in my draft pile) but I wanted to share out this video about the importance of learning coding and programming, and its connection to literacy. This fits in nicely with a summer camp program for high school students in which we intend to explore hacking as literacy, and the concept of learning coding as literacy is right in the mix.
Over at the Teach the Web MOOC, the task this week (week four) is to create a resource that will push our thinking around the work we have done so far with remixing, creating and more into the realm of education. This is a crucial step forward for those of us playing around with the Mozilla Webmaker tools and others.
As the Teach the Web folks put it:
“Our aim is to continue strengthening this community, sharing experiences and make some hackable, shareable resources that push the boundaries of participatory, collaborative, learner-centric learning.”
What I was exploring in this resource is a push to give students and young people more agency in the world of digital media, and thinking about how tools such as XRay Goggles, Thimble, Popcorn Maker might engage them in the work and play of understanding the digital media world. In making not just the web more visible but also the intent of media producers, my hope is that young people become more active participants and creators, instead of passive consumers.
This thinking is valuable to me, not just now with my sixth graders, but also for this summer, when I am slated to teach a digital literacy workshop for five weeks with high school students in a nearby urban center. The program, which the Western Massachusetts Writing Project is a partner to, aims for English Language Learners. My workshop with students will be centered around hacking literacies and video game design, and all this work with Teach the Web is really informing my thinking and helping me put the pieces together for the summer.
This particular activity — the resource I am sharing here — gave me room to frame some of the larger ideas around using technology and digital tools to empower students. That’s an important message for me to remember, and nurture, and build lesson and activities off of.
This weekend, as part of a professional development session I was co-facilitating, I asked the teachers into the room to ‘write into the day’ with a Slice of Life prompt — find a moment in which in you interacted with a student, and write about it. Almost everyone shared their Slice of Life out, and it was a wonderful range of stories — from inspiring, to discoveries, to frustrations.
Next, I asked them to focus even further — and narrow down their Slice to a Six Word Memoir. Many expressed difficulty with this task, and yet, they did an amazing job. We used Padlet (formerly Wallwisher) to post their six word stories. As I explained, not only were they learning about a new technology tool, they were publishing AND gaining some ideas for how to get their students to write in a variety of formats and technologies (from pen to the web).
We’re having a 20th anniversary celebration of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project tonight at the University of Massachusetts, with special guests (including National Writing Project Executive Director Sharon Washington and poet Lucille Burt) and viewing of student work and WMWP activities over the last two decades. It will be great.
At the event, WMWP will release its newest publication, “Writing to Go II,” a book featuring a range of writing assignments by WMWP teachers, each coupled with student work for those assignments. Participating teachers and students represent schools in Hampshire, Hampden and Worcester counties.
The project will also celebrate its growth from a cadre of 15 teacher leaders who completed the first Summer Institute in 1993 to a multi-faceted project that in 2011-12 delivered professional development programs to more than 1,100 Massachusetts educators in 11 Massachusetts counties, with most activities centered in Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin, Middlesex and Worcester counties. To capture highlights of the past 20 years, the program will include a digital collage, a timeline, displays of other teacher and student publications, and features on key programs and future plans. A Massachusetts Senate resolution honoring WMWP, filed by Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg, will be read.”
Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project has been working in partnership with an urban middle school on strengthening the writing and literacy instruction. One aspect of that project is that teachers have to design and launch a classroom research/inquiry project. What we found was some confusion over what that should look like, so along with written instructions (and future one-on-one sessions),I created this short video as another way to explain what inquiry might look like.
Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project has an ongoing partnership with the local newspaper to feature teachers writing about educational issues on a monthly basis. This month, I wrote about going to a School Committee meeting and watching teachers become political advocates for learning, and for kids, and urging the rest of us to find our voices, too, when it comes to educational reform and issues.
I created a modified podcast of the article (which you can read through the link off the WMWP website).
Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project is in the midst of a year-long inquiry around digital literacies. It began back in the fall with a running theme through our Best Practices conference, and has continued with a few inquiry sessions with our WMWP leadership team. The other day, I facilitated a Hackjam session, as a way to get us talking and thinking about the hacking and remixing culture of young people and how it might connect to school-based learning.
We began with an activity away from the computer. I call it Hacking the Writers, a version of Hacking the Poster that I did at the National Writing Project meeting (thanks to Chad Sansing and Andrea Zellner). I brought in a poster that I have of cartoon characters of famous writers (the poster is very funny in itself) and handed out sticky notes and said, add your own comments to the poster. The room got sort of silent, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But soon enough, there was a lot of laughter going on and the poster got hacked.
Next, we had the privilege of having Rafi Santo skype into our meeting for about 40 minutes. Rafi has done some very interesting work around “hacking literacies” and the consideration of systems, and how to think about participatory media in a meaningful way. (We all read a piece by Rafi about hacking literacies to set the stage — you can find a link to the article here). Rafi was wonderful, helping to open up some eyes around why teachers should be considering this topic. His talk moved from social justice issues (giving power to change the media message and the issue of access) to the reclaiming of the word “hacking” as a positive endeavor to a rationale for at least understanding the technology we use on a daily basis. The topics of privacy and ownership were also featured.
My hope had been that Rafi would establish a case for why we should care, and use, hacking literacy ideas in the classroom, and he did so in a meaningful way.
Next, I introduced two tools: one was the Lego Gender Remixer, which allows you to remix Lego commercials in order to uncover marketing techniques. The other was the Hackauraus XRay Goggles, which is a hacking tool that allows you to hack websites (not really — it is an overlay) and craft new messages. We went into Education Week and hacked our own messages about teaching, and you should have heard the giggling and chatting that was going on in the room. There was excitement about some easy tools that would help students and teachers understand the larger concepts.
These kinds of sessions help lay the groundwork for consideration of our classroom. I don’t expect hacking to suddenly explode in their schools. But getting situated on the possibilities, and flipping the concept to a positive idea around empowerment of student voice, is a step in the right direction.